How To Put Gussets in Pants or Shirts

When a garment is really too tight in the crotch area of a pair of pants or in the underarm area of a shirt, you might want to add a gusset.

A gusset is typically a diamond or triangular shaped piece of fabric that is sewn into one of those areas to give some extra room to the clothing.

(If you need extra room in a strapless dress or a dress or top that has straps, you’ll want to look at the post on How To Put Gussets In a Dress or Top.)

However, this post will focus on diamond shaped gussets that are inserted into an area where four seams intersect. They are usually found in pants or the underarm area of a shirt that has sleeves.

For this type of gusset, you’ll need to make a diamond shape gusset, and I’ll show you how.


The gusset shape and size will be determined by how much extra room you need in the crotch area or the under arm area.

To be more specific, in a pair of pants, the gusset is sewn into the intersection of where the inseams meet the center front and center back seams of a pair of pants. It is the lowest point of the pant before you start into the leg area.

This is a view of the underside of a pair of pants after a gusset is put in so you get the idea of what they look like:


In the under arm area, the gusset is sewn into the area where the under arm seam and the side seams meet the sleeve seams. It would look basically the same as the photo above only it would be located in the armpit area and there would be no zipper!

(You may have guessed by now that I am going to use diagrams exclusively on this post because I think they might be easier to follow than actual photos.)

Read through all the instructions before starting. This is not a difficult alteration, but you will want to be familiar with all the steps before you start.

To begin with, have your customer try on the slacks and then provide a mirror so they and you can see what you are looking at. (If this alteration is for your own pants, you also should try your slacks on in front of a mirror.)

If the pants are too tight in the crotch area, the fabric will bunch and pull and you’ll see horizontal lines or folds of fabric that seem to originate from the crotch area.


A rule of thumb here for any garment:  tight “pulls” of fabric always “point” to the problem. So, in this case, the tight pulls “point” to the crotch area.

Measure from the lowest “pull” line on the left side of the pants to the lowest “pull” line on the right side of the pants. The diagram below illustrates where to measure. That will give you one measurement of the gusset. Let’s say it is 3″. Write that measurement down.


I used to also measure the crotch length of the customer which looks like this:


But, I have found that pants do not sit at the natural waistline very often anymore and each customer likes their pants or slacks to sit at a different place in the front and in the back. So, ask your customer to tell you how much more they want in the front and the back to make the pants fit and feel better.

Let’s say the customer wants 2 more inches in the back and 1 more inch in the front.

You’ll need a total of 3″ for the vertical measurement of your diamond shape.

The same rules apply if you are measuring for an under arm area.

The first measurement in the under arm area is how much more they need in the arm circumference and then how far it is between pulls:


Once you get those two measurements, (for either the crotch area or the under arm area) you are ready to draw a gusset pattern on paper.

Even if you don’t want to add any to the crotch length, (or the arm circumference), you’ll need to, in order to make the diamond shape. In that case, it could be a skinny diamond by only adding 1/2″-1″ to the crotch length area. (I will only be referring to the crotch alteration from now on, but apply the principals to the underarm if that’s your alteration.)

Let’s say you need to increase the crotch length by 2″ and the width by 3″. (Again, you could have any combination of measurements, based on the measurements you need, so your gusset shape most likely will differ from mine. Yours could even potentially be a square shape.)

Here is how I would make the gusset. Mine needs to be 2″ high by 3″ wide.

So, I get out a ruler and a piece of paper and draw 2 dots representing the increase of the crotch length measurement (shown below by the red dots..mine is 2″). Then, I draw a vertical line between those two dots (below).

Then, I use the ruler to find the middle point of that line (In my case, it is 1″). Because the measurement along the inseam from pull to pull is 3″, I draw a black dot 1 1/2″ to the right of the midpoint and a black dot 1 1/2″ to the left of the midpoint. Next, draw a horizontal line connecting the 2 dots (represented below… mine is 3″ total).


Then I draw the diamond shape by connecting the dots like this:



This diamond shape is the base of your gusset shape.

Next, I add seam allowances to the diamond shape. This is very important. If you don’t add them, your gusset will be too small.

If you are feeling a little unsure of the size of the gusset you made, or this is your first time making gussets, add 1″ seam allowances all around the gusset shape. Doing this will give you some added room to adjust it later, if you need to, without having to make another gusset.


(Just so you know, on the garment itself, you will be using the original seam allowances to stitch on when we get to that point.)

Cut out your paper pattern.

Next, cut your gusset out of any scrap of fabric that matches your garment, as close as possible. It may be difficult to get it to match exactly, but get it as close as you can.

Mark the stitching line (1″ in from all the edges) on your gusset. You can use a piece of chalk, washable marker, or hand stitch a running stitch to mark it.

Finish the edges of the gusset with a zig zag stitch or use your serger. This will prevent the gusset from fraying as the garment is worn and washed.

Next, you will open up the inseams in the garment where you will put the gusset in. So, my measurement was 2″.


Only open up exactly the amount you need and back stitch those openings well with your sewing machine so that they are anchored well and they don’t open up any more.

Next, you will stitch one continuous side of the diamond to one side of the pant opening. Right sides together!

Make sure you line up the correct side of the diamond to the correct side of the pant (center front, right leg, center back, or left leg). You want your diamond to be in the correct position when you’re all finished sewing.

Also, be sure to line up the drawn stitching lines on the gusset to the original stitching line on the garment. The seam allowance on your pants may be 1/2″. If your gusset has 1″ seam allowances, the edges will not line up evenly and that’s ok. Just be sure to match up the gusset seam allowance to the pant seam allowance and pin well or baste between the dots on the gusset. This will be explained further below.

Use the original stitching line of the garment to stitch the garment and the gusset together being sure not to catch any part of the gusset in the stitching as you go.

Be sure and stitch only from dot to dot. Do not stitch the diamond piece all the way to the gusset edges. The corners of the gusset should always be loose. If they aren’t, the gusset will not fit properly.

In the diagram below, the wrong side of the gusset is facing us while the right side of the pants are facing us.



Stitch the next side of the diamond in the same manner:



Both seams should be sewn tight. If there is any open area, stitch it up being careful not to catch the gusset in the seam.

Now, you should have a perfect gusset!


If the gusset is too tight, take out the stitches and use a smaller seam allowance on the gusset which gives you more room in the gusset.

If the gusset is too large, take in more of the gusset with even larger seam allowances on the gusset.

Once you get the fit correct, stitch over the original seam again. This will secure it and keep it from coming undone in the future.

Update: February 1, 2018: I’ve received some really great questions about specific situations concerning gussets….

First, the reader asked if you need to pay attention to the grain line of the fabric when cutting out and sewing in the gusset. Here’s my answer:

Personally, I don’t think it’s critical to pay attention to grain lines unless you are working with a stretchy material. The lengthwise grain of the fabric has the most stretch and should be placed in the same direction as the inseams (side to side in the diagram on the post.) Don’t use the bias as the bias is too stretchy and the weakest part of the fabric. It will stretch too much, and in some cases leave a bulge in the gusset over time.

Second, the reader asked how to stitch over the thick intersection of jeans where the inseams meet the center front and back seams. Here’s my answer:

There is an amazing tool called a Jean-a-ma-jig and it makes this job so much easier. Check out this link on How to Use a Jean-a-ma-jig. You must also know how tough your sewing machine is. If you are having trouble sewing on denim, you may want to hand walk your needle over the thickest part of the intersection. To do that, just stop sewing right before you get to the thickest part and use the fly wheel located on the right side of your machine and turn it toward you until you’ve “walked” it over the hump. It should still be pretty secure and that way you don’t break a needle. If you need to trim the seam a bit before you sew, just be sure you’re not taking out too much fabric and not leaving enough to hide the raw edges inside the seam. Top stitch over the original stitching line.

Congratulations, you’ve just accomplished making and inserting a gusset!

Now, for those pants that are too baggy in the crotch area, here is a post on How to Take in the Crotch Seam on Pants.










How to Replace a Jean or Pant Zipper

You know it’s time to replace a zipper when the teeth are missing or the zipper tab has pulled away from the teeth, like this one:

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It’s almost impossible to put the tab back on the track.

(But if the slide has broken off and the zipper is still intact, you can always just replace the slide. You can find replacements at most large fabric stores or online.)

This method works on jeans, slacks and skirts.

Here’s a post on how to replace a zipper in a jacket or coat.

Before you begin, measure the length of the existing zipper.


As you can see, I’ll need at least a 6 ” zipper for this pair of slacks. If you only have a longer zipper, go ahead and use it. Later, I will show you what to do with a zipper that is longer than the measured area.

If you can, ask your customer to measure the zipper, buy the one they like and bring it with them to the first appointment. I don’t like to have inventory of these on hand because I never know what size or color the customer would like, or if their first choice is even available. It’s much easier and less stressful to have them buy the one they’d like. That saves you time and hassle and you’ll have the one they like.

The zipper color does not have to match the fabric since it won’t be seen, once the garment is worn.

Once you have your zipper in hand, take it out of the package and set it aside.


Start taking out the old zipper using a seam ripper., paying close attention to how it was installed.

You’ll want to make mental notes of each step so that you can insert the new zipper in the same way the old one was put in.

This area at the bottom of the zipper (where my seam ripper is pointing to) is usually sewn in with a tight zig zag stitch or bar tack stitch. Be careful when removing these stitches as they are sewn in very tightly:


You can see that the top of the original zipper was cut off by the manufacturer:


Next, rip out the area of zipper where the pull tab is now in this photo:


Notice there is a double row of stitching here.


This photo below, shows how I’m almost finished ripping out both sides of the zipper:


Once you have the old zipper removed from the pants, insert the new zipper and begin to pin the left side as shown below:


Make sure you tuck the top of the zipper between the waistband and the front of the slacks. If it is too long, you can cut it, leaving an inch or so above the top of the zipper teeth (just like the manufacturer’s zipper had)

Next, I fit the front of the slacks over the pinning I just did, pulling out the pins as you sew. You can line up the zipper with the stitching holes left behind by the old zipper. Stitch right over the same holes where the original zipper was sewn. Use a denim or heavy duty needle, if you have one. Here’s a post about how to choose the right sewing machine needle for your project.


Continue stitching to the bottom of that section, pulling the top fabric until it meets about 1/8″ from the zipper teeth as you sew. You’ll know when to stop.

Now turn the pants upside down like in the photo below. This just makes it easier to pin the next section.


Now, flip just the left side of the zipper tape over to the right side, like this below:


Line up the zipper tape with the old sewing holes on the right side and pin. Stitch it in place, sewing over the old holes, or if you can’t see those, stitch about 1/4″ away from the zipper teeth being careful to remove the pins, but don’t move the zipper tape as you sew.

On the outside (right side) of the pants, stitch along the curve edge. You should be able to see the original stitching line. Stop sewing after about 3″ and backstitch to lock in your stitches. See photo below.

If you were to stitch all the way up to the waistband, you would sew the pants shut and you wouldn’t be able to put the slacks on! So, just sew about three inches. When you took the old zipper out, you probably noticed how they were done that way originally.


Once you backstitch and trim off your threads, pull the pants away from your machine and fold under the right side of the zipper, so that the right side doesn’t get caught up in the remainder of your stitching and continue stitching up to the waistband. This keeps that “fly” piece out of the way.

I forgot to take a photo of this step, but you can look at the very last photo and see what the stitching line should look like.

At this point, your waistband is still loose and open on each side.

If you have jeans, you can topstitch the waistband on in a matter of seconds.

Notice that on these slacks, the waistband is not topstitched down. Some of you will want to topstitch it because it is fast to do so, but I don’t like the look of a partially topstitched waistband. You could topstitch all around the whole waistband, but I like to match whatever the original finish was on the garment. In this case, I hand stitch the opening:


Then I stitch in the “ditch” where the two fabrics meet, as in the photo below. I went ahead and stitched it so you can see the stitches out in front of the needle. Those stitches will basically be hidden. You won’t notice them if you stitch as shown below:


Do the same on both sides of the waistband.

Many times the button is loose even before you start working on the zipper. I like to tighten that up or resew it as a courtesy to the customer.


There you have it….a new zipper easily installed!





How To Hem Jeans Using The Original Hem

So many of you have wondered how to hem your jeans by using the original rolled hem.

I had never done this before as I hadn’t personally had any customers ask for it.

Until now.

My own daughter asked me to hem hers that way.

So, who better to try a new technique on than my own offspring?

Based on her recommendations, which corresponded to some of your instructions, I hemmed her jeans in no time.

I’ve always written posts based on alterations I have done before.

Some of them I’ve done hundreds of times.

But, this is the first post where I am a rookie.

So, please leave a comment or send me an e-mail with your technique for getting this done.

(Update January 12th: Here is a photo of my daughter’s jeans using two different techniques:

The technique for the leg on the right (Technique #1) is described below.

I did the left leg based on instructions that a friend gave us in the comment section and I’ll include a link to her site at the end of this post. There’s also a third technique which I will link to at the bottom of this post as well.

Technique #1

The basic idea is that I am going to cut off the old hem and restitch it farther up the pant leg.

The new seam I make will next to the stitching on the original rolled hem.

Let’s take a look at this technique step by step.

First, I had my daughter try on the jeans.

I folded up the jeans and pinned the denim where she wanted the bottom edge of the hem to be:

Next, I pressed that bottom edge with an iron:

(Yes, you could turn the hem to the inside and press it the other way, but this edge isn’t going to show later, so I eliminated a step by just pressing it as is.)

This pressed edge will be our guide to show us where to stitch the new seamline for the hem.

The next step is to trim off the original hem edge.

I don’t want to cut right next to the rolled hem edge because that wouldn’t give me any seam allowance and I’d have to sew over the big hump of fabric at the hem.

I decided that one inch allowance gave me enough “insurance” and gave the hem enough extra fabric so that the hem doesn’t roll to the outside while wearing the jeans.

So, I cut the jeans like this:

Do you see the extra fabric I have to the right of the scissors?

I cut it far enough away that I can make a seam allowance.

That’s the amount that is crucial to the success of this hem. Make sure you give yourself enough denim.

As I mentioned, I gave it an inch.

This is what it should look like, completely cut away from the jeans:

Next, you’re going to match this “circle of denim” right sides together to the pant leg.

Match up the side seams.

then, pull ithe “circle” down the leg (up the leg?) like this and pin below that pressed fold:

Now, we’re going to make sure it is in the right spot.

Fold up that original rolled hem and peek under the cut edge to make sure the rolled hem edge lines up with the fold that you pressed earlier like this:

Looking at the above photo, the pressed folded edge is lined up with the rolled hem edge. You just can’t see it because the rolled hem is covering it up.

But, it’s there, under my thumbnail.

Everything from the top of my thumb down, will be what the jeans will look like when we’re finished.

Is this making sense?

Ok, holding that rolled hem edge very carefully, so that nothing slips, unfold that rolled hem edge and put a pin in that spot like this:

You’re now going to sew right next to the rolled hem edge like this:

Just make sure you don’t sew over any pins.

Take them out before that happens!

Now. fold the raw edges under to the inside of the jeans.

From the right side of the jeans, the new hem should look like this:

This is what it looks like if you peek inside the jeans:

My raw edges are not finished yet.

I want my daughter to try them on first, before I trim anything or finish the edges.

This is what they look like after I pressed them on the outside:

Ok, now you’ve seen this first technique.

If you’d like to learn the technique for the jeans on the left side of the first photo,  jump over to Blankenmom’s website and see how she does it.

My daughter liked her technique better.

I do too.

It seems like the hem will stay down better and not flip up.

It also encases the raw edges, which is another plus.

Thanks again, Blankenmom!

We all learned something new.

****If your customers prefer a hem that doesn’t use the original edge, here is a post on How To Hem Your Jeans the Professional Way.


Taking in the Waist and Center Back on Denim Pants and Skirts

One of the more common alterations I do is taking in the waist and center back on pants, jeans and skirts.

Most people try and solve this problem by just making a dart or two in the back of the pants.

That doesn’t work too well if your pants or skirt is made of thick fabric and has double stitched seams.

This is when this alteration comes in handy and it works on pants and skirts alike.

For this illustration, I have a skirt:

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Pin how much you need to take in and record the amounts along the waist and the center back seam (as I did in the second photo of How To Take In the Bust.)

Or use your favorite method of transferring measurements.

This skirt has a belt loop at the center back. With a seam ripper or a pair of small pointed scissors, take off the belt loop, making sure you pay attention to how it is attached because you are going to reattach it in the same way after you make the alteration:

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Remove any tags that are sewn in:

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Open up the horizontal waist seam by about four inches or more (2″ on either side of the center back) with your seam ripper or scissors:

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If there is stitching along the top edge of the waistband, take out about 3 inches of that (1 1/2″ on either side of the center back seam).

Now, this skirt does not have a center back seam in the waistband. Most pants and jeans don’t either.

If yours doesn’t have a center back seam, don’t worry, we are going to put one in and it won’t show, because of the belt loop, as I’ll illustrate later. If the garment does not have a belt loop, that’s ok. Most people don’t tuck in their shirts anymore, so the seam won’t matter and won’t really be noticeable.

This skirt needed to be taken in 3/4″ total in the waist. So, that means, I need to take in 3/8″ on both sides of the center back.

I took a ruler and marked the skirt 3/8″ away from the center back (make sure you mark to the left of the center and to the right of the center), one  at the top of the band and one at the bottom of the band:

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See the blue pen mark in the photo above? Well, you probably don’t want to use a blue pen, but I thought you’d be able to see it better than my marking pen.

Make these marks on the outside waistband and the inside waistband because you have to take in both!

Just to clarify, your markings should look like this:

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As you can tell in the photo above, if you don’t have a center back seam, you can draw one with a washable marker, or press it in, or eyeball it.

When you don’t have a center back seam, you are going to create one to take the waistline in. Don’t worry, because, again, it will be covered by the belt loop. .

To take in the waistband, fold the waistband along the new imaginary seamline, right sides together. (If your garment came with a center back seam, of course you’ll just stitch a line parallel to the seamline.) Match the blue dots to each other and pin them in place:

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Stitch in that new 3/8″ seam:

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Most of the time, I cut the fold and spread the new seam out flat to reduce bulk in the waistband area.

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However, if this is your first time with this alteration, wait and make sure everything is going fit together well before you trim it. If you have taken in a small amount, you may just want to leave it alone and not trim it. It’s up to you.

Now, we’re going to move to the skirt (or pants) for a few minutes, so leave the waistband until later.

Turn the skirt or pants to the underside. You need to take out the topstitching next.

Sometimes, the manufacturer will stitch the topstitching with a chain stitch. These are great because you can grab one thread and pull and the whole seam will come out. Just make sure you don’t pull out more than you meant to!

On this skirt I had one row of chain stitch and one row of regular stitching:

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Take out the top stitching with a seam ripper or scissors.

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Take in the skirt or pants the desired amount, tapering the seam towards the original seam like this:

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Again, I don’t just guess on how much to take in, I have pinned it first and then transferred the markings so I know exactly where to stitch the new seam.

Once you have the new seam stitched, turn the garment to the right side and top stitch the seam just like it was originally. You may be stitching on row of stitches 1/8″ away from the fold and the second row 1/4″ away from that 1/8″ row. Don’t worry if the old stitching holes show. They will fade as soon as the garment is washed.

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Next, you want to reattach the belt loop. Stitch that belt loop to the center back seam before you stitch up the waist.

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Next, stitch the labels back on. I usually just stitch the two ends of the label down. No need to go back over the entire label.

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Now, top stitch the top of the waistband. Many times this is 2 rows of stitches. It might be one. Or, there might not be any. Just follow whatever the original garment had.

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Stitch the waistband to the skirt (or pants). I usually top stitch this area closed. Make sure that belt loop is hanging free:

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Top stitch the top of the belt loop and then the bottom to hold it in place. Make sure you back stitch several times to hold it in place. If the area is super thick, use a Jean-a-ma-jig to help you keep from breaking your needle. Hand walk it over the bulky area if you need to.

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Here’s a look at the inside:

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This is what it should look like on the outside. The waistline should look the same as before you started, only smaller!

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